I grit my teeth and smiled as small hands yanked my hair into a braid. I was on mission trip in Jamaica to share the love of Jesus. Drawn by the novelty of my long blond hair, the neighborhood girls surrounded me as soon as I entered. Tears squeezed through my eyes as I prayed God would leave a few strands on my head while I honored Him in becoming all things to all people. The pain was worth the gain of loving these attention-starved little ones.
Before I set out to the Caribbean, our missions group held many training sessions. Our leaders instilled our team verses into us:
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Chronicles 9:19-22 NKJV)
Paul was not admonishing believers to change their personality or alter the gospel to trick people into following the Lord. Instead, he wanted Christians to find areas of commonality with others so they could connect. People don’t care what I have to say until they know I care about them. When I listen to people, I can find ways to reach them in their hurt. God longs to restore the brokenhearted. When I serve others in love, their wounds begin to heal.
I don’t have to travel to another country to go on a mission trip. Every time I leave the house, I encounter people different than me. Yet, we all are created in the image of God with spirits that scream the need for something more than just this life. I can choose to join in their suffering or walk on by and ignore them.
Instead of using my freedom in Christ to justify obedience to God and obligation to no one else, I discover that loving God means loving people. Showing God’s grace towards others by meeting them where they are at does not excuse sin, but points them to the remedy found in Christ alone.
Paul put it this way in Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (NIV). I’m not to abuse my freedom as a new creation in Christ to fill my human desires. Rather, I must die to self to serve others because of Christ’s love shown on the cross.
I lost some hair that day in Jamaica, but the Lord loved those braids. While they played, I told the girls about the greatness of God and His grace for them. Though no one accepted the gospel that day, I planted seeds that I pray will grow up into righteousness. May God show us how to use the freedom He bought for us to serve all others selflessly.
Last fall, I completed a six-week Daniel fast. I entered with expectations that God was going to give me the desires of my heart in the ways I wanted and direct my steps with clear guidance. Instead, God surfaced a variety of issues He wanted to work on in my life. So many, that the top of the mountain seemed insurmountable. God wanted me to know I couldn’t climb to the peak on my own. I had to surrender to the Holy Spirit to empower me step by step each day.
Instead of God fulfilling my wish list, I got a deep scrubbing. It felt like God had taken a steel wool pad to my soul and starting rubbing out the sin. He couldn’t see His face shine in mine with all the grime of my pride. The Lord in His love for me wanted to work out my selfish motivations.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart” (NKJV). My will had to align to God’s heart because He would not bend to mine. Even if what I wanted was a good, if I wanted it more than God, He couldn’t give it to me. I have to delight in the Lord above all else. Then my heart will be filled with God’s desires for me.
I have to be cleaned inside before God can work out all His promises. God is scouring my spirit so that I can reflect His priorities to the world. Without a pure heart, I can’t see God (Matthew 5:8). So, because of God’s love for me, I went through the wringer.
Honestly, it hurt. Over 45 days, God surfaced 13 areas of my life that required major work. Without God’s grace, depression would have crushed my soul. Instead, I remembered that for grapes to make juice, they have to be pressed. My junk had to be removed for God’s goodness to emerge. I am pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8).
God didn’t love me less because of a hard season. Instead, it demonstrated the depths of His love. If He didn’t discipline me, it would mean He had given up on me. Instead, He puts in the hard work with me to refine me.
Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.’”
The Lord chastens me because I am His daughter. Instead of being discouraged that I will never improve, God encourages me that He is disciplining me out of love. He doesn’t want to leave me in my current state. God wants me to experience living a holy life like Him, but knows it is impossible for me to be holy and justify my humanity with excuses (Hebrews 12:7-10). He sees through my problems, diligently polishing my heart until I look more and more like His Son.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m being rung out on one of those vintage washboards where you scrape off the stains by repeatedly rubbing the cloth up and down metal grooves. Every bump of the board jolts me. Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (NKJV). Chastening is not fun. It is painful. Yet, I look for the glory of God He will bring from this growth. Good fruit for His kingdom is coming my way. If God has worked to prune away so much of my life, it is to make room for a more fruit (John 15:1-2). I await a harvest of His glory from this wilderness time of life.
How about you? Are you pleading with the Lord for something and seeming to get no traction? Maybe you feel you are going backwards despite trying to seek God’s will. Let the Lord cleanse your soul. Part of the sanctification process requires scrubbing. God cannot abide with our sin, so He finds ways to remove it to make more space for Himself. Though it may hurt, I pray the Lord gives you grace through the drought and a plentiful harvest of spiritual fruit that glorifies God soon.
I had no control over where I was born or who my parents are. God's grace got me to where I am now. Some might say that since I was raised in the southern Bible belt of the United States by Christian parents, it was inevitable that I would still love Jesus today. Sadly, I know countless stories of people raised in Christian homes who have left the faith as adults.
Paul’s conversion to follow Christ strayed from his upbringing as well. His father was a Roman citizen with favored status. He also grew up as a Pharisee who studied the law of Moses. Paul strove to keep the law and forced his fellow Jews to do so also. When Paul heard about Jews converting to Christianity, he was livid.
Instead of displaying curiosity to know who this Jesus was, Paul traveled around imprisoning and killing Christians. No one would expect him to become God’s chosen conduit to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.
Yet, God likes to surprise us. He uses the foolish things of the world, the weak and fallible, so that His glory shines through these jars of clay called humans. If we were great and mighty, we probably would seek the accolades for ourselves instead of praising God for His goodness.
To demonstrate just how gracious He is, God used the most unlikely person as His special vessel. On the road to Damascus, Jesus radically changed Paul’s life trajectory. Instead of killing Christians, Paul suffered greatly himself while conducting several missionary journeys to spread the good news to the Gentiles.
Paul describes himself this way in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (NKJV).
Paul knew his roots, but he didn’t let it hold him back from following God. He gave all the glory to God for his changed life. Paul knew without his radical intervention; he would have remained on a path of destroying believers in Christ.
His lesson reminds us that no matter how tainted our past, God can use anyone. God has used the areas where I’ve had my biggest struggles and turned them into ministry opportunities later in life. God won’t waste our pain if we let Him transform it into glory for His name.
Also, I remain humbled by Paul’s admission of achieving all he had done solely because of God’s grace towards him. Sometimes, I get ahead of myself and credit my actions to my own efforts. However, none of my accomplishments are possible apart from God’s generous grace towards me. I can’t even create air for my lungs to inhale my next breath. There is no life or hope apart from Christ, but in Him is the abundant riches of living in the light of His glory and grace.
May we always ascribe to God the glory due His Name, knowing we are who we are by the grace of God alone and not by any works of righteousness we have done.
As I celebrate the Fourth of July, the often-said phrase “Freedom is not free” rings through my mind. As a child, I thought Independence Day meant a time for burgers and lollipops the size of my head to lick while watching fireworks. My family named the bursting lights as they lit the sky. Then we rushed away before the grand finale to beat the traffic.
Years later during a trip to Washington, DC, I realized the depth of what my freedom cost. I went to the Vietnam War Memorial on a cold rainy Veteran’s Day, witnessing the names of so many who died. Next, I saw the Korean War memorial where the anguish on the faces of the statues stood to remind the next generation of the horrors of war. The most sobering moment was walking through Arlington Cemetery with row after row of polished white marble headstones representing the lives of countless men and women who died for our country and the freedoms it represents.
We Americans have so many freedoms because our country was founded on Christian principles. The opening of the Declaration of Independence reads “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our country also holds the freedoms of religion, speech, press, and the right to assemble. I am grateful for everyone who fought and died over the course of our history, that we could keep those rights today.
Many other countries do not hold our democratic principles. They rule with autocratic leaders who seek to make a name for themselves during their time on earth. We have so much to thank God for with the rights and liberties we hold here in America. May we use our freedom wisely.
For believers in Christ in America, not only do we have Constitutional freedoms, we also have freedom from sin that came at a price. First Peter 1:18-19 says, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (NKJV).
When a person breaks the law and goes to jail, sometimes they can pay bond to get out of jail. Depending on the crime, bail is set at lower or higher amounts. For our sins against God, no amount of money could ever cover that debt. Instead, Jesus took on the punishment our sins deserved by dying in our place. His priceless blood spilled so that we could be redeemed and set free from the law of sin and death.
What a merciful God we serve. Romans 5:8 reminds us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NKJV). Jesus died for us when we were His hostile enemies. Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us that we can’t boast about saving ourselves. We are saved by grace through faith alone. Our works are worthless when it comes to paying retribution for our sins.
As we examine the cost of our spiritual freedom, may we live differently because of it. We are not to live for ourselves, but for the Lord. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (NKJV). The price Jesus paid prompts us to strive for God’s glory instead of our own.
This Independence Day, while we enjoying hamburgers and watching firecrackers, may we not forget the price of freedom. May we thank God for giving us so many freedoms as Americans and spiritual freedom paid in full by the blood of Jesus and live for the Lord.
I met on a Saturday morning with my church’s evangelism team. We studied Scriptures and prayed for God to provide opportunities to share the gospel at the park. Then we broke into small groups to meet with people and point them to Christ.
As we strolled along the concrete sidewalk, I saw a lady playing ball with her son in a large field of grass. I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to speak to her. I told her we wanted to encourage people. She said, “Thank you.” Then I tried to tell her about Jesus, but she shook her head. I started to walk away when a man from my group asked her to church. She announced that she didn’t speak English.
The accent sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. My friend then asked which language she spoke. It was one I had studied in college.
Still, I wanted to leave. I hadn’t used the language in years, and my skills were rusty. I was embarrassed. I tried to justify that if I couldn’t speak clearly, it would reflect poorly on God. Yet, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me depart. My feet stuck to the ground until I shared about Jesus.
I wound up having a five-minute gospel conversation in a foreign language with the lady. I felt like I suddenly had the gift of tongues because I understood her and also recalled Christian vocabulary. Amazingly, she grasped my poor grammar and complimented my pronunciation. My mouth gaped in shock. Definitely a work of God.
She said her mother prayed for her. I responded that was nice but not enough. She needed a personal relationship with Christ.
I told her God wanted her to know He loved her so much, that He sent me to share that love in words she could comprehend. She took it as a sign from God and indicated she would look into reading the Bible. I showed her where to download the Bible app to get her language and recommended the book of John.
As I finished my blog series on the “I Am” statements of Jesus, I realized that His story doesn’t stop there. Because of who Jesus is, our lives are changed when we believe in Christ. My encounter at the park reminded me of Paul’s words in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (NKJV).
Jesus didn’t die just for English speakers. He died for all nations, tribes, and tongues (Revelation 7:9). Salvation is for everyone who believes, for the Jews first and also for the Greeks. The Gentiles. People like me. Like the lady on the sidewalk with her little boy. Who knows, maybe one day I will rejoice in heaven standing beside this woman and her son. What a joy that would be. I can’t let shame of unused language skills make me ashamed of the gospel. As a believer, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I pray that God will empower you to be unashamed too.
Once my pastor and his wife gave all the single ladies in church flowers on Valentine’s Day. Those roses turned a dreary day into an array of color and joy. I put the flowers into a vase full of water and dumped in the plant food that came with them. The first few days the petals bloomed bright and filled the room with their sweet aroma. However, by the end of the week the roses started to droop and within two weeks they were dead.
Even though I had provided water and food to nourish the flowers, they had been cut off from the rose bush. They couldn’t stay alive because the source of life was temporary and insufficient to sustain the buds.
The same way the roses needed to stay connected to the vine to survive, we must abide in Jesus to thrive. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (NKJV). Jesus is the vine that gives the nutrients we need for our whole lives. We may think that we just receive spiritual food from Jesus, but if we are spiritually undernourished, it will hurt the other areas of our lives. To stay plugged into the source of all live, we must abide in Christ.
The concept of abiding goes beyond taking a week vacation at a hotel. When we remain in God’s Word, we made it our home where we spend all of our time, energy, and efforts. Knowing that we receive the truths we need to flourish drives us to seek out Scriptures for direction in the way to go. When we reside in Christ, we will bear much fruit.
Without Christ, we will be fruitless. My flowers didn’t put themselves in water or add the flower food. I supplied that for them. We cannot muster own strength. Jesus says apart from Him, we can do nothing. That’s right – nothing. Humbling yes, but also encouraging because it means that we aren’t hopeless. God didn’t leave us without a means to fill our needs. He is the vine. We are to stay in Him. John 15:4 says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (NKJV).
So, what does it look like to abide in Christ? It means not just skimming Scriptures every day to check a box that you read your Bible. Instead, we must feast on God’s Word and meditate on how to apply it to our lives. We ask the Holy Spirit to show us timeless truths in the verses we read. Then He gives us guidance and courage to act on what the Word has directed us to do. Sometimes, obedience is costly or difficult, but it is always the best course of action.
Another method of abiding in Christ is prayer. Personally, I can rattle off my wish list to God and say Amen before I’ve listened to any of God’s thoughts about my desires. I am learning to apply Psalm 37:4, realizing that delighting myself in the Lord is loving the things He loves. To know God’s heart, I must read His Word and listen for His voice. Then instead of having a heart full of my own whims, I can ask for God’s desires to fill me. My delights with align with God’s when I listen to His heartbeat through His Word and prayer.
My prayer is that instead of being cut off from the vine, we may stay rooted deeply in God’s Word and listen to Him through personal prayer time. May we all seek sound advice from fellow believers to help us grow deeper in Christ. Then our lives will bear not only some fruit, but after careful pruning from the Father (John 15:1), we will bear more fruit and eventually much fruit. May our fruit basket glorify the Lord so that our lives and those around us may experience the bountiful and beautiful love of God as abide in the vine of Christ.
Have you ever played the ice breaker game called “Three truths and a lie”? In this game, people share either exciting stories or insignificant things and you try to guess which are true. Let’s play. Here are four statements about me. Can you tell which ones are true and which is a lie?
First: I love coffee. I can’t face mornings without a hot cup of joe.
Second: My favorite dessert is chocolate cake. Yummy to my tummy.
Third: I miss traveling and am eager to go places again.
Fourth: When I wear my gold sparkle shoes, I feel happy.
Maybe you are thinking, hey, this seems like a complicated way to get to know someone. Why should some have to guess what another person likes or not? Why can’t people tell the truth about who they are?
Unlike humans, Christ did not hide His identity. In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (NKJV*). In one verse, Jesus proclaimed Himself as the way to the Father, as truth embodied, and claimed that eternal life was found in Him. If I made such statements, you would consider me delusional. Jesus spoke no lies. His words are all true because He is the truth.
John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus’s life overflowed with grace and truth that glorified His Father and enabled us to catch glimpses of His majesty. Jesus sanctified Himself so that we might be sanctified in His truth (John 17:19).
The Old Testament commandments showed us our sinful nature. No one could be justified by the law (Galatians 2:16). John 1:17 says “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The ultimate sacrifice for sins arrived in Christ and ushered in the grace that the law could never provide. The rules served as a tutor to bring us to Christ, so we can be justified by grace through faith (Galatians 3:24; Ephesians 2:8-9). We have a new relationship with God because of the grace and truth we receive through Christ.
Because Jesus is truth, we can be free from sin and sanctified. John 8:32 says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Knowing Jesus means that we don’t have to live under the curse of the law any more. Death no longer reigns in our mortal bodies. Our sins are covered by God’s mercy, and fear of the Lord drives us to depart from evil (Proverbs 16:6). We become spiritually alive, able to commune with God and live a life that honors Him. We cease from striving because we recognize that all of our righteousness is like filthy rags. Instead, we rest in the completed work of Christ on the cross and cling to hope and abundant life.
Truth is not only a conceivable concept, but a knowable person with whom we can have a relationship. Jesus wants people to know Him and thereby know the truth—so we need to share the truth. In Colossians 1:5, Paul explains how we have hope in heaven because someone shared the gospel with us.
We didn’t think up salvation on our own. Someone used words to tell us about Jesus. No only do our lives need to be a good example, but our words need to proclaim the good news of Jesus with everyone we met so they may also know the truth. God desires for everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), so we must point people to the one true God. The God who can be known to us through Jesus.
I tried to help you get to know me better through the ice breaker. Did you find the lie? If you guessed chocolate cake is not my favorite, you are right! Give me carrot cake any day of the week and keep the chocolate. Jesus doesn’t try to trick us. Every word He said is true and right. I pray that we study His Word to know Him better so that we can discern truth from lies about Jesus and proclaim the gospel to everyone we meet.
* What are three truths about Christ that you appreciate?
* Who are three people with whom you can share the gospel?
*All verses are in NKJV.
Once I arranged to meet a friend for buffalo wings in the neighboring state. I left work late and couldn’t go home to grab my phone to get directions. I was unfamiliar with the area, but I’d looked at a map that morning. I believed I could forge my own way to the restaurant.
My plan didn’t work.
I drove in circles for thirty minutes before stopping at a gas station and asking the attendant to use his phone for directions. After writing down the way, I took the correct route. Because I was late, we hurried through our meal before the place closed. The next time I brought my phone to ensure I knew how to get where I was going.
Similar to how I didn’t know where to find the food, Jesus’ disciples were confused about where He was going the night before He died. After Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus shared words of wisdom before the crucifixion. Jesus explained that His Father’s house had many rooms, and He was going to prepare a place for them. The disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was talking about His death.
John 14:5-6 says, “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (NKJV).* Thomas voiced the problem many have today. They have no idea who Jesus is or the way to reach Him.
Sadly, many people will spend eternity in hell because they spent their lives seeking pleasure instead of focusing on knowing God. Matthew 7:13-14 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Jesus clarified that He is the narrow way which leads to life.
When Jesus died for our sins, He made the way by which we can enter into the presence of the Father. He removed the sins which block our entry into heaven by nailing them to the cross (Colossians 2:14). The door to the Father was opened by Jesus.
We boldly approach the Father because Christ shed His perfect blood. Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.” We walk through the sacrificed body of Christ and step into the presence of God. The blood of Jesus is the only path for anyone to get to heaven.
Jesus said He was the way not just a way.
Some people want to argue that Jesus is one of many methods to get to heaven. Jesus’ own words refute this notion. The Bible states no other name can offer the salvation we find in Christ (Acts 4:12). No other religion provides the security we have in Jesus. We serve the only God who sent His Son to die for us. We can’t earn our way into heaven. God gave us the gift of salvation which none of our good works could ever deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Before people who believed that Jesus was the Messiah were called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26), they were originally called people of “The Way” (Acts 9:2). I imagine this naming convention linked back to Jesus calling Himself “The Way” and because His followers declared the way of salvation (Acts 16:17). May we be people of “The Way” who obey Christ and share with others to the only true path into heaven – through the blood of Jesus.
*All verses are in NKJV.
I’ve never seen anyone physically raised from the dead. During Jesus’ ministry, He brought several people back from the dead. First, Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son back to life. He took pity on her destitute situation and revived her son to provide for her needs (Luke 7:11-17). Next, He resurrected Jarius’ daughter. The people ridiculed Jesus when He said she was sleeping, but were shocked when they found her alive (Luke 8:40-56). On the way to Jarius’ house, Jesus healed a woman with a flow of blood for twelve years. So, when Lazarus got sick, his sisters Mary and Martha called their good friend Jesus. Since He had already healed others, they figured He could heal their brother too.
But Jesus didn’t come immediately.
They waited…and waited…and waited.
Still no sign of Jesus.
Then the worst happened.
What were they to think? How could Jesus fail them in their darkest hour?
When Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. I can’t imagine grief and betrayal that Mary and Martha must have felt. Mary didn’t even go to greet Jesus at first, but stayed with the other mourners. Martha ran ahead to talk to Jesus. She moaned in despair, “If You’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” How her voice must have quivered as she choked back tears. The One who could heal her brother stood before her, but Jesus was too late.
Or was He?
John 11:23-27 (NKJV)* says:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.
Martha, as a good Jewish woman, understood the Biblical teaching of the resurrection at the last day. However, she didn’t know that she was beside the resurrection and the life Himself. What did Jesus mean when He called Himself the resurrection and the life?
Although Jesus had already raised two people from the dead, they had not been dead for long. In the Jewish culture, people didn’t wait days to bury their dead like we do now. Instead, they wrapped them in cloths and took them to their grave almost immediately. Jesus knew He would rise from the dead on the third day, but who would ever believe something that had never happened? He made His own resurrection credible when He raised Lazarus back to physical life.
The three people Jesus raised from the dead did not do so on their own strength. Only Jesus returned from the dead in His own supernatural power. Romans 1:3-4 says, “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Jesus remained alive and now sits with the Father in the heavenly places. Jesus’ resurrection proved that He is the Son of God and not some random powerful and popular person.
Jesus’ resurrection didn’t just define Who He is, it also radically redefined mankind’s relationship with God. Jesus didn’t rise from the grave just to prove His Diety, but also to justify those who believe (Romans 4:23-25). Though we deserved God’s death sentence, we can now trust in His resurrection power to save us from our sins (2 Corinthians 1:9). We who believe are resurrected to walk in new life in Christ on earth and forever more. Take a moment to let the beauty of this truth sink deep into your identity. Because Jesus is the resurrection, we now have confidence in our eternal inheritance in heaven with Christ (1 Peter 1:3). We have a living hope in our risen Savior Jesus Christ.
All three people whom Jesus raised from the dead went on to die a physical death again. They do not walk the earth now, over 2000 years later. When Jesus rose from the dead, He didn’t die again. He stayed alive. Our bodies are destined to die (unless we are raptured when Jesus returns). Yet, we are more than just physical bodies. We are also spiritual beings.
Though our flesh is mortal, our immortal spirits are made alive through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). Apart from Christ, we are all spiritually dead in our trespasses and yet, by God’s grace, we can be made spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:4-5). The reign of terror caused by sin was conquered by God’s mercy that rules in righteousness, so that we may have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21).
When we live and believe in Him, we will never die. God gives us the gift of eternal life that begins here on earth and never ends. What is eternal life? John 17:3 defines it this way, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” We don’t have to wait until heaven to enjoy the benefits of eternal life. Because Jesus resurrected, our eternal life starts when we repent. We have our whole lives to deepen our relationship until our spirit joins Him when we die physically. Eternal life eases the hardships of life on earth as we walk alongside our Savior.
When Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, it wasn’t because He didn’t care about Mary and Martha. Instead, He loved them so much that He chose to display His power by raising their brother Lazarus from the dead, thereby preparing people for His own resurrection. I am so thankful that Jesus paved the way for me to escape the death my sins deserved and gain eternal life through His resurrection. May we share His love so others may believe and rise from their spiritual graves.
The night was quiet. A soft cool breeze stirred the air. The sound of sheep baaing keep silence at bay, but didn’t disturb the shepherds in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
Suddenly, an angel appeared announcing the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, who was the Savior of the world. The shepherds were stunned. Then the dark sky filled with light as heavenly hosts sang out a chorus praising God.
When their eyes adjusted back to the black of the night, Luke 2:15-16 says, “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger” (NKJV).*
Little did these humble shepherds know they were about to greet the one who would one day call Himself the Good Shepherd. A king humble enough to connect with the ordinary people around Him. People like shepherds. In John 10:14 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
The Good Shepherd Knows His Sheep
Sometimes I wonder if even as a baby, Jesus was aware of His surroundings. Maybe as the God of the universe in the flesh, He actually remembered the adoration of the simple shepherds. Even though sheep are stupid animals, the shepherd knew all of His sheep by name and slept in the doorway to block out thieves and wild wolves who could attack the sheep in the night. Jesus was not born high and mighty into a throne room of a palace, but laid His head in a lowly manger. He could identify with the hardships of the people, not disdaining their pain, but entering it from the moment He was conceived to live on earth.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He cares for His sheep. Psalm 23 tells the story of how the Lord is our Shepherd, so we don’t want. He seeks good things for His sheep and protects them from the dangers of life. He leads them by still waters so they didn’t wash down the river when trying to drink water. Even when they passed through the valley of the shadow of death, the sheep had nothing to fear. They only had to follow their Shepherd through, and His rod and staff would keep them safe from any attacks.
The Good Shepherd Sacrificed Himself for His Sheep
Not only did Jesus care for His sheep during His life, He saved them through His death. There is no way the lowly shepherds could have fathomed that this baby Jesus was born to die on a cross. John 10:11 says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Jesus is our Good Shepherd because He willingly chose to lay down His life so that we could be reconciled to the Father. Apart from His sacrifice, there was no way the perfect blood could be spilled to pay the debt we owed for our sins.
This Christmas, may we be like the shepherds who ran to see the baby that the angels proclaimed as the Son of God. May we marvel at His humble beginnings that paved the road to His cross on Calvary and then final victory over the grave. I’m so thankful for the Good Shepherd who gave His life for me.
*All Scripture is from the NKJV version.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Florida.